Hurricane evacuee gives birth in Augusta

Ellianna Mae Yanik was supposed to be born last Thursday in Brunswick but her parents fled to Augusta the day before to get out ahead of Hurricane Irma.


Fortunately, her aunt lives in Martinez and Ellianna was born two hours after her mother made it into a busy W.G. Watson M.D. Women’s Center at University Hospital.

“She came fast and furious,” Amber Yanik said.

“Just like the storm,” added her sister, Wendy Davis.

Asked if she ever considered Irma as a name, Amber Yanik gives a quick and emphatic “No.” Ellianna’s combination name honors a grandmother and grandfather on her husband’s side.

Ellianna was one of a handful of evacuee babies at University Hospital, which also saw births last year from mothers fleeing Hurricane Matthew. The storm itself might have had something to do with that – at least one study in Japan published in 2006 found a correlation between an increase in births and big changes in barometric pressure, and hurricanes have some of the lowest barometric pressures ever recorded. University has seen an increase around the storm, said Sherri Simmons, nurse manager for labor and delivery.

“We are up some for this week, Sunday through today and we are not through with today,” she said. “We’re extremely busy today. There’s definitely been an increase in deliveries.”

The women’s center was helped by the fact that so many volunteered to stay during the storm and help out, Simmons said.

“We had tremendous efforts from the nurses volunteering for that and lots and lots of teamwork from all of the areas of the Women’s Center pulling together, as well as the whole hospital,” she said.

Amber Yanik said the family decided to leave ahead of the rest of the evacuation at the strong urging of her sister and piled all three kids and the dog into a van to head out.

“We didn’t want to get stuck in traffic and deliver in the van,” she said. Ironically, the family just moved from Pennsylvania to Brunswick last October, right after Matthew tore through, and they were told the storm was unusual for the area.

“They said the last one (before Matthew) was 20 years ago,” Yanik said. “You shouldn’t see one for another 20 years.”

They have already heard from neighbors that the floodwaters came right up to the house they are renting but they don’t know if the water made it inside and probably won’t know until they get back home, she said. They have no idea yet what happened to the house they are under contract to buy but at least they had the foresight to put off the home inspection for it last week.

At the very least the area where they are currently living has power again, Yanik said, which is unusual for Brunswick. More than half of Glynn County is still without power, more than 27,000 customers as of Wednesday afternoon between Georgia Power and Okefenokee Rural Electric Membership Corp.

The family was fortunate to have Davis’ house to flee to and she and her husband let them have their bedroom on the first floor so Yanik wouldn’t have to climb the stairs. But then the house in the West Lake subdivision lost power for two days and just got it back late Tuesday. Yanik left the darkened house late Monday to get down to University and Ellianna arrived at an unusual confluence of time and date – she was born at 12:12 a.m. on Sept. 12. Yanik joked she has been told she needs to play the lottery now.

As she sits in her room at University, there are two giant pink bags sitting nearby from University Health Care Foundation, stuffed with clothes and diapers and all manner of things a fleeing family might not have thought to bring with them.

“There’s a ton of stuff in here,” Davis said, peeking into the bags.

The family plans to stay at least through Friday for an appointment for Ellianna and that is fine with Davis.

“I was happy with what the storm blew in,” she said, cradling her new niece.

So is Yanik, especially with her choice of University.

“This has been the best labor and delivery of all four and I did not expect that,” she said.

For someone who just dodged her first hurricane, Yanik is very upbeat about being in Augusta.

“This was the place to be,” she said. “We’re very grateful.”

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or